The Rams played their best game of the season on Sunday against the Denver Broncos, winning 22-7 at the EJD. As one might expect, the Rams produced their best overall results of the season in the key team statistical measures I've been tracking since Week 1. The Rams appear to be a team on the rise, with hard-fought wins over the Broncos, Seahawks, and 49ers in the past 5 weeks. The game against the Broncos finally revealed the style of play the Rams faithful had been expecting to see since the start of the season: A conservative, ball-control offense centred on the running game, coupled with a ferocious, suffocating defense.
Throughout the 2014 season, I'll be tracking five key team statistical measures, and their affect on the outcome of every Rams game: Turnover Differential, Big Play Differential, Points Per Drive Differential, Team Penalty Yards Differential, and the score of the game at half-time. When combined, Turnover Differential and Big Play Differential creates a statistic commonly referred to as "Toxic Differential".
Why were these 5 particular metrics selected for tracking throughout the 2014 season? Turnovers and Big Plays have proven to be influential in determining the outcome of a game. There's a historically strong correlation between Points Per Drive Differential and a teams regular season record. The score at half-time and Team Penalty Yards Differential were selected specifically with the Rams in mind. There appears to be a strong correlation between the score at half-time and the Rams' win/loss record. The Rams - under Jeff Fisher - have been among the league leaders in penalties, to their detriment.
It's a widely held belief that winning the turnover battle is important to a teams success on the field. The Rams finished with 7 wins in 2013. The team had a positive turnover differential in 6 of those wins, and a zero differential in the other victory. Overall, the Rams finished 9'th in Turnover Differential (plus +8) last season. In 2013, the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks led the NFL in this key statistic.
For the first time this season, the Rams won the turnover battle, finishing the game with a plus +2 Turnover Differential. Peyton Manning threw a pair of interceptions, while the Rams held on to the ball throughout the game, finishing with zero giveaways. Both of Manning's interceptions occurred in the fourth quarter, with the Broncos down by two scores. The Rams scored a pair of field goals as a result of the turnovers, sealing the Rams' 22-7 victory.
The Rams currently rank 23'rd in the league in Turnover Differential (-3).
|1||Green Bay Packers||22||8||14|
|3||New England Patriots||19||8||11|
|4||San Francisco 49ers||21||11||10|
|16||San Diego Chargers||10||9||1|
|20||Kansas City Chiefs||8||10||-2|
|23||St. Louis Rams||13||16||-3|
|24||New York Giants||17||21||-4|
|25||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||15||20||-5|
|27||New Orleans Saints||10||19||-9|
|30||New York Jets||7||18||-11|
Team Penalty Yards Differential
In 2013, the Rams were the 2'nd most penalized team in the NFL, averaging 7.7 Team Penalties Per Game. An excessive number of penalties can stall drives, and can keep opponents' drives alive. In an average NFL game, the officials will call between 12-14 penalties per game (both teams combined). The Rams' goals should be to have no more than 6 penalties per game, plus a positive Team Penalty Yards Differential.
The Rams were flagged for 3 penalties - totalling 25 yards - in the game against Denver. The Broncos committed 8 penalties for 62 yards. For the Rams, the result was a positive Team Penalty Yards Differential of 37 yards. Overall, the Rams played a disciplined game against Denver, and minimized the effect of penalties on the outcome.
After 10 games, the Rams are tied for 10'th most-penalized team in the NFL, averaging 7.4 penalties per game. The Rams are 3'rd in the league in most penalty yards (701), and are 31'st in the league in Team Penalty Yards Differential (-256). In an interesting twist, the Rams rank 4'th in the NFL in fewest Opponent Penalty Yards (445). Apparently the officials still aren't too keen on penalizing the Rams' opponents.
|Rank||Team||GP||Pen Yds||Opp. Pen Yds||Pen Yds Diff||Pen Yds Diff/Game|
|3||Kansas City Chiefs||10||343||537||194||12.13|
|4||Green Bay Packers||10||488||674||186||11.63|
|6||New Orleans Saints||10||448||603||155||9.69|
|9||New York Giants||10||441||551||110||6.88|
|14||San Diego Chargers||10||560||600||40||2.50|
|18||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||10||626||615||-11||-0.69|
|19||San Francisco 49ers||10||572||558||-14||-0.88|
|26||New York Jets||10||675||512||-163||-10.19|
|30||New England Patriots||10||752||524||-228||-14.25|
|31||St. Louis Rams||10||701||445||-256||-16.00|
Big Play Differential
Big Play Differential is the difference between the number of big plays - running plays of 10+ yards plus passing plays of 25+ yards - an offense creates, and the number of big plays a defense allows. How important are big plays to a teams offense/defense? Last season, NFL teams averaged 0.8 points per drive without a big play, and 3.9 points per drive with at least one of them.
In the game against Denver, the Rams' offense produced 4 rushing big plays, and 2 passing big plays. The Rams' defense gave up just 1 big play in total (their best result of the season), resulting in a plus +5 Big Play Differential for the game. One passing big play for the Rams set the tone for the game, and was crucial to the Rams' victory. With 1:18 left in the first quarter, QB Shaun Hill hit WR Kenny Britt for a 63-yard touchdown pass. The score gave the Rams a 10-0 lead, a lead they never relinquished. In contrast, the Rams only gave up one big play the entire game, a pass to Emmanuel Sanders that resulted in a touchdown late in the second quarter. To their credit, the Rams' defense tightened up, and didn't allow the vaunted Broncos offense to score in the second half.
The Rams currently rank tied for 19'th in the league in Big Play Differential (-4).
|Rank||Team||Plays||Big Plays||Rush||Pass||Big Play %||BPA||+/-|
|6||San Francisco 49ers||659||54||34||20||8.19%||31||23|
|20||New York Jets||674||47||36||11||6.97%||37||10|
|3||Green Bay Packers||601||54||35||19||8.99%||52||2|
|17||St. Louis Rams||616||44||27||17||7.14%||48||-4|
|26||New England Patriots||685||44||26||18||6.42%||48||-4|
|21||New Orleans Saints||706||49||34||15||6.94%||57||-8|
|27||San Diego Chargers||623||39||21||18||6.26%||49||-10|
|15||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||582||43||22||21||7.39%||56||-13|
|16||Kansas City Chiefs||613||45||35||10||7.34%||63||-18|
|25||New York Giants||664||43||25||18||6.48%||73||-30|
Points Per Drive Differential
Points Per Drive Differential is a derivative of Points Scored/Allowed. It measures the number of points generated/allowed on an average drive. 13 teams reached the playoffs/won 10 games in 2013. 12 of them finished in the top dozen in Points Per Drive Differential. Successful teams with winning records are normally the most efficient - both offensively and defensively - and consistently generate positive PPD Differentials.
In Sunday's game, the Rams had 12 drives in total, and scored 22 points on those drives (1.83 points per drive), a significant improvement over the last three games. The Broncos had 13 drives in total, and scored 7 points on those drives (0.54 points per drive), the best result of the season for the Rams' defense. The Rams' Points Per Drive Differential versus the Broncos: Plus +1.29.
Red-zone effectiveness continues to be a problem for the Rams. The Rams were 0-for-3 in red-zone touchdowns scored against the Broncos. Once inside an opponents 20-yard line, the Rams are scoring touchdowns only 52% of the time (21'st in the NFL). The Rams have 12 red-zone touchdowns this season, second fewest in the NFL.
After 10 games, the Rams rank 29'th in the league in Points Per Drive Differential (- 0.75).
|Team||Points Per Drive||Points Per Drive Against||Point Differential|
|1||Green Bay Packers||3.08||2.01||1.08|
|2||New England Patriots||2.83||1.86||0.97|
|3||Kansas City Chiefs||2.32||1.61||0.7|
|13||San Diego Chargers||2.02||1.75||0.27|
|17||New Orleans Saints||2.46||2.42||0.04|
|18||San Francisco 49ers||1.87||1.88||-0.01|
|23||New York Giants||1.72||2.16||-0.43|
|25||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||1.78||2.43||-0.65|
|29||St. Louis Rams||1.59||2.35||-0.75|
|30||New York Jets||1.49||2.3||-0.82|
Score At Half-Time
In 2013, the Rams finished with a 7-9 record. In all 7 victories, the Rams were either tied or leading at half-time. In the Rams' wins against Tampa Bay and Seattle this season, they were leading at the half in both contests. In the win against San Francisco, the Rams were tied 10-10 at half-time.
In the game against Denver, the Rams went into the locker room with a 13-7 lead at the half. The Rams held the Broncos scoreless in the second half, and went on to win the contest 22-7.
|Week||Turnover Diff.||Big Play Diff.||PPD Diff.||PY Diff.||Half-Time||Game Score|
|1||Negative||Negative||Negative||Negative||0 13||Lost 34-6|
|2||Even||Negative||Positive||Negative||10 7||Won 19-17|
|3||Negative||Negative||Negative||Negative||21 10||Lost 34-31|
|5||Even||Positive||Positive||Negative||7 20||Lost 34-28|
|6||Even||Negative||Negative||Negative||14 10||Lost 31-17|
|7||Even||Negative||Negative||Positive||21 6||Won 28-26|
|8||Even||Negative||Negative||Negative||7 10||Lost 34-7|
|9||Even||Negative||Positive||Negative||10 10||Won 13-10|
|10||Negative||Positive||Negative||Negative||14 10||Lost 31-14|
|11||Positive||Positive||Positive||Positive||13 7||Won 22-7|
A couple of firsts occurred for the Rams in their game against the Denver Broncos, the most complete game the team has played this season. For the first time this season, the Rams had a positive Turnover Differential. The game against the Broncos also marked the first time this season the Rams had a positive result in all 5 of the statistical categories being tracked.
Pro Football Focus Grades
As an added feature, OakCityRam is generously contributing his weekly compilation of Pro Football Focus grades for each Rams player. Although PFF grades have their shortcomings and are quite subjective, they do offer a unique perspective. The grades can be a valuable tool for analyzing individual player performance, especially when used in conjunction with other statistics. PFF provides - on their website - a detailed description of how players are graded.
|NFL Rank||OFFENSE||Play Counts||Ratings|
|Pos.||#||Name||Total||Run||Pass||Run Block||Pass Block||Overall||Pass||Rush||Pass Block||Screen Block||Run Block||Penalty|
|46/112||LWR||81||Kenny Britt *||59||0||29||30||0||2.3||1.8||0||0||0||0.4||0.1|
|15/76||RT||72||Joe Barksdale *||66||0||0||34||32||1.1||0.9||0||-0.1||0.3|
|42/42||C||63||Scott Wells *||66||0||0||34||32||0.9||-0.2||0||1||0.1|
|43/62||TE-R||88||Lance Kendricks *||44||0||13||26||5||0.1||-0.4||0||0.3||0||0.1||0.1|
|81/112||RWR||11||Tavon Austin *||50||2||27||21||0||0||-0.6||0.5||0||0||0||0.1|
|Not Rated||LWR||13||Chris Givens||15||0||8||7||0||-0.3||-0.3||0||0||0||0||0|
|17/22||TE-L||46||Cory Harkey *||29||0||6||22||1||-0.5||-0.2||0||0.1||0||-0.5||0.1|
|Not Rated||QB||14||Shaun Hill *||66||0||32||34||0||-1.1||-1.2||0||0||0||0||0.1|
|42/78||LG||76||Rodger Saffold *||66||0||0||34||32||-1.6||0.8||0||-2.6||0.2|
|70/78||RG||69||Davin Joseph *||66||0||0||34||32||-2.1||1.3||0||-3.6||0.2|
|47/60||HB||27||Tre Mason *||45||29||10||1||5||-2.6||-0.2||-1.7||-0.7||0||0||0|
|27/78||LT||79||Greg Robinson *||66||0||0||34||32||-6.9||-0.6||0||-6.6||0.3|
|NFL Rank||DEFENSE||Play Counts||Ratings|
|Pos.||#||Name||Total||Run||Rush||Cov.||Overall||Run Defense||Pass Rush||Pass Cov.||Penalty|
|30/85||SS||25||T.J. McDonald *||71||12||1||58||5.5||0.1||-0.1||5.4||0.1|
|13/56||DRE||94||Robert Quinn *||60||6||54||0||2.6||-0.1||2.5||0||0.2|
|27/34||WLB||52||Alec Ogletree *||71||12||6||53||2.3||1.7||0.5||0||0.1|
|2/81||DLT||99||Aaron Donald *||63||12||51||0||1.1||0.6||-0.2||0.5||0.2|
|Not Rated||RCB||22||Trumaine Johnson *||67||9||0||58||1.1||0.1||0||0.9||0.1|
|46/60||MLB||55||James Laurinaitis *||71||12||12||47||0.2||0.2||1||-1.1||0.1|
|36/85||FS||23||Rodney McLeod *||71||12||0||59||0.1||0.1||0||0.9||-0.9|
|Not Rated||DRE||93||Ethan Westbrooks||11||6||5||0||0||0.4||-0.4||0||0|
|Not Rated||SLB||59||Korey Toomer||1||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|41/56||DLE||97||Eugene Sims *||43||4||39||0||-0.1||0.9||-1.2||0||0.2|
|Not Rated||SS||26||Mark Barron||12||3||2||7||-0.1||0||-0.2||0.1||0|
|19/112||SCB||33||E.J. Gaines *||71||12||4||55||-1.7||0.6||0.2||-2.6||0.1|
|59/81||DRT||90||Michael Brockers *||40||7||33||0||-1.8||-0.2||-1.7||0||0.1|
|84/112||LCB||21||Janoris Jenkins *||71||12||0||59||-2.3||0.1||0||-1.5||-0.9|
The Rams' defense dominated the Peyton Manning-led Broncos offense, and it showed in this weeks individual PFF grades. Another outstanding performance by the defense as a whole.
Rams D past 3 weeks: 331.7 ypg, 45.33 rushing ypg, 2.57 ypc, 11.3 points per game, 3 INT, 2 fumble recoveries and 13 sacks.— Nick Wagoner (@nwagoner) November 17, 2014
Scott Wells had his best game of the season for the Rams, and although it's not reflected in his grade, Davin Joesph enjoyed perhaps his best game as a Ram. Both were instrumental in allowing the Rams to rush the football effectively and control the clock.
Alec Ogletree and T.J. McDonald had outstanding games for the Rams, and keep improving as the season wears on. McDonald was the highest-graded Rams player in the game against the Broncos. Jeff Fisher revealed one of the reasons for Ogletree's improved play:
Key to Ogletree's revived play? Jeff Fisher says he's finally in shape. Ogletree reported heavy to camp.— Jim Thomas (@jthom1) November 17, 2014
Due to all of the Broncos' three-receiver sets, Jo-Lonn Dunbar didn't play in Sunday's game, and Mark Barron was limited to 12 snaps:
As suspected, Fisher said Dunbar not playing was function of Broncos being in so many 3-WR sets, throwing so much. He doesn't play in nickel— Jim Thomas (@jthom1) November 17, 2014